by Edward R. Amend

“My child just doesn’t seem motivated! What can I do to help him see that he is wasting opportunities?”

As a psychologist, I hear this presenting concern quite frequently from parents of gifted children. It always reminds me of something I was told many times throughout my graduate training. “As much as you might like to, you just can’t beat insight into someone,” my supervisor would say.

“But, doesn’t he understand what he is doing?” I would respond, mimicking the parents’ message to me. “If only he would see the impact of his behavior on his life and his family.”

As I continue to see – and now counsel parents and others to see – you really can’t beat insight into someone, especially the strong-willed gifted child. You have to plant seeds and open doors, and allow the child to make insightful connections in his or her time. Sometimes, it takes longer than we, as supportive adults, would like. Sometimes, we have to allow some of the small failures in life in order to open the door to more successes later.

Don’t despair, however, because counselors, teachers and parents are not totally helpless in the process. Though you don’t often get your message across with a lecture, you can provide your child with resources to speed up the process. Telling personal stories and fictional tales can sometimes help, especially with the young gifted child. Novels and movies may also create some connections. With the gifted adolescent and young adult, one powerful technique involves using biographies of well-known persons. When selected wisely and presented in a non-threatening way, these books and stories can send the message you are hoping to send with less confrontation — increasing the likelihood that the message will be heard. Through the use of these powerful techniques, insight builds and a child’s behavior gradually begins to change.

To read more about how to use the power of books, movies, and biographies with gifted children, adolescents, and young adults, check out these articles on the SENG website.
Using biography to counsel gifted young men
Nurturing social and emotional development in gifted teenagers through young adult literature
Fostering the social and emotional development of gifted children through guided viewing of film

In September of 2004, Edward R. Amend, Psy.D., was a clinical psychologist in private practice in Lexington, Kentucky and had served 4 years on the SENG Board of Directors.

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